January 21, 2017

You have a platform, but are you making it count?

Whenever a celebrity—whether actor, singer, athlete or other entertainer—takes the opportunity at an awards ceremony or other public event to speak out about a political issue, certain segments of the public immediately begin scolding and lashing out.

"It's inappropriate!" they say. "Celebrities should keep their opinions to themselves!" "We pay you to act and entertain us!"

So let me ask you this: If you had a platform where you could reach hundreds or thousands or millions of people all at once—and you had something really important to say, would you use it?

You don't think of yourself as Meryl Streep at the Golden Globes—and you're not—but I guarantee that many of you are using the platforms you DO have every day.

Are you on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google+ or Tumblr? Do you ever post your opinions about things (anything: food, people, music, politics, organizations, cars, football teams, Mac vs. PC...) on any of these social media channels?

Do you ever regale your friends with your ideas while you're sitting around having a drink? Do you share your ideas on a large or small scale at work, at the place you volunteer, in your committee meetings, at the dinner table? Yeah, you're using your platform.

You think it's different, that Meryl Streep went to the Golden Globes to win an award, so it's not appropriate. But you—you're just doing your thing, hanging out in your "virtual living room" on Facebook or Twitter, and everyone should expect you to say what's on your mind, right?

I just randomly scrolled through my Twitter stream to see what people were saying. Here are some of the opinions I encountered:

"Why do some people use the word feminist as an insult? A feminist is simply someone who believes that women should have equal rights to men."

"We need a lot more love songs."

"Vaccine-pushers calling for even more injections in children is chemical violence against them."

"If you're not pissing off someone you're not doing your job."

"Why Every Entrepreneur Needs to Start #Blogging Immediately"

"Need an influx of cash? Borrow from a friend or family member."

I may or may not agree with these, but the fact remains that these people are using their platforms, in this case Twitter, to share their thoughts, ideas, and beliefs.

See, we do this every day. All day. We share our opinions with the world.

Everything I say on Twitter has a chance of being seen by my 7,840 followers, plus others who don't know me who are scrolling through. Everything I say on Facebook has a chance of being seen by my 1,879 friends, plus their friends, plus others (my posts are public).

Is everything I say momentous? Nope. Is everything I say even worth your taking the time to read? Nope. Nevertheless, it's my opinion and I choose to share it, for various reasons, because I want to. Just like you do.

Your platform may be bigger than mine or smaller than mine. You may be standing in front of audiences, shooting videos, recording Facebook Live streams, leading webinars, facilitating small discussion groups or retreats. And your platform can always be bigger and more widespread, if you want it to be.

You have a platform. Don't kid yourself that you don't. Yours isn't as big as Meryl's, but you use it when you have the chance.

So knowing that you have a platform, that you can grow a platform, and that more people could be hearing what you have to say, how are you going to make the choice to be conscious about your platform?

Are you going to choose to use the platform you have wisely, thoughtfully and in an organized fashion to share your message with those who most need to hear it?

Here's a chance to make that leap from wanting to express your ideas better, more articulately, concisely and powerfully, to actually doing it, and using your platform strategically.

Join me March 20-22 in Santa Barbara, California for my 2 1/2-day retreat "Shake Up Your Speaking: Get Real... Get Results."

Stop fantasizing about having a platform for your ideas. Stop using the platforms you have in a slipshod or haphazard way. Get organized. Get clear. Be compelling.

You may not have millions to share your ideas with, but you do have an audience. Make your ideas stand out. See you in March!

Photo credit: MTSOfan The Woman With the Bull Horn via photopin (license)

January 18, 2017

Big fish or little fish... what's right for you?

It's a new year, and with a new year comes lots of marketing hyperbole. Lots of "New year, new you!" and "Step into your greatness!" kinds of posts, articles and of course, paid programs.

Every January, I feel the pressure. Do you feel the pressure? To be bigger, bolder, more recognized, more successful (on someone else's terms...)?

I feel the pressure to have big events, make big money (used to be just six figures—now I'm seeing a lot more seven figure pressure), get big name clients. I feel the pressure to get media interviews, be on magazine covers and blow my competition out of the water.

I feel the pressure for more more more more more.

And I do want more. I do want to grow my business and I do want to make more money. And I understand that the more visibility and recognition I get for my work, the more people I can reach and the more people I can serve.

I get that.

But here's the thing: If all I focus on is "more," at the expense of what I really care about and what really moves and motivates me, then it's not worth it.

I don't want "more" for the sake of "more." What I want is to serve the people who need me most, who value my coaching and training the most, and who will implement the new skills they've learned with eagerness.

I work with a lot of different kinds of clients, individual coaching clients, group coaching clients and corporate training clients. I especially love working with nonprofits, because that's the sector where I spent 16 years and even co-founded my own organization.

I know that the work people do in the nonprofit sector comes straight from a place of wanting to improve their communities, straight from the heart. Sometimes those who work or volunteer for nonprofits have personal experience with the particular cause they support.

This was the case with a group I trained in September 2016, called Lived Experience Advocacy Development (LEAD), a speakers bureau comprising clients of Transitions-Mental Health Association who have mental health diagnoses and have been homeless. The LEAD team addresses public policy organizations to advocate for projects serving homeless community members who also have mental illness.

Most recently, they have addressed the City of Santa Maria Planning Commission, Santa Maria City Council, Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors, and the Santa Barbara County Mental Health Commission, among other groups, to speak out in support of a local housing project and on a statewide bill that made funds available to communities to provide supportive housing to people living with a severe mental illness and are either homeless or are at risk of homelessness.

There was so much camaraderie and conviction among the members of the group; this is not just an issue that affects someone "out there." Each of the members of LEAD is intimately acquainted with the experiences of those they now advocate for. It's a powerful feeling to listen to a speaker who is 100% fired up, committed to their message and committed to making a real impact.

One morning in December, I opened Facebook to find this post on my timeline:

This was shared by Girlie Ford, one of the members of LEAD.

I've also received notes from Cathie Ortiz, another LEAD member, who has kept me updated on their speaking engagements:
"We did it Lisa! Me n Patricia Faulkner belted it out. Youda been so proud. Man I love this feeling!!! WOOHOO!"
I know that many of my clients experience these feelings of elation with speaking success. And when they feel this way, I feel it too!

This is what makes me happy. This is what motivates me to go to work every day. This is why I do what I do.

Sometimes I get all starry-eyed watching big-name speakers on those big stages with hundreds or thousands in the audience, and I have to say, it looks pretty appealing, including a five-figure check for an hour of speaking.

But in the past 18 months or so, I've come to a realization that small workshops with committed participants are where I want to be. I have to acknowledge that this is where I shine, it's where I effect the most change, and it's what I love to do more than anything.

I love the small group coaching and training experience, watching my clients blossom, and seeing their confidence in their abilities just explode. I've been doing this for 20+ years, but it's finally sinking in that it's what I want to do, not just what I do.

The LEAD members are smart, articulate, funny, insightful, courageous, and are working really hard to nail this stuff down. Some of the group members already had speaking experience before our workshop, but one personal had literally NEVER spoken in front of an audience before our training, and I felt so privileged to be part of that moment.

What I'm saying is that I'm a small fish in a big pond, and I like it here. I could be a bigger fish, and my business is still growing. But in my pond, there are still many people who need me and who value and embrace what they gain from working with me. The people in my pond are putting learning into action, taking huge leaps of faith, and reveling in their growth.

My pond is a pretty sweet place to be. How about your pond?

December 19, 2016

Tangible examples always win

Speakers face some of their biggest challenges when it comes to presenting data. There is something about pie charts and diagrams that PowerPoint users are drawn to like moths to a flame.

However, your audience doesn't usually need the level of detail that you provide, and they are typically overwhelmed.

How can you present data in a way that gets your point across, making it concrete, while giving the audience just as much information as they need and want to know?

Use an example or a comparison to something that your audience is already familiar with. There is always a story behind data; you just have to find it.

Here's an example I found in our local weekly paper.

Click the image to see it full-size.
The number of mattresses that are sent to landfills every year is almost 2 million. But numbers that big sometimes become meaningless to our audiences. They're so vague. So this ad takes on the vagueness of a big number, and compares the hypothetical stack of mattresses to the orbit height of the International Space Station.

Now, I can't really fathom that distance either (249 miles from the earth) and you could argue that it's also vague; however, I do know that the ISS is in SPACE! And I know that space is really, really, really far away. That's enough for me to comprehend that a stack of mattresses higher than the ISS is a really, really, really high stack of mattresses.

And that is so much clearer to me than a number. 

What examples have you seen of turning numbers and data into engaging stories and examples for audiences?

October 15, 2016

It's my tenth blogiversary!

Ten years ago this week, I started blogging.

My first post was published on October 9, 2006. Since that time, I've published 1,475 posts, I've saved 86 drafts that are still waiting to be finished and published, and I'm turning about 60 of them into a book to be published by the end of this year.

I've repurposed those posts into audios, teleseminars, webinars and trainings, and many of them are finding new life in LinkedIn and other places I never considered!

Thanks to my blog, I hit #1 on Google for "public speaking coach" in September of 2007, and I've had several entries on the home page of Google ever since. I can't emphasize the benefits of blogging enough!

Here's my very first introductory blog post (LOL - there's not even an image with it - maybe I should add one, finally). These days, I blog maybe once a month, but my blog is still working for me. Here's to another ten years!

September 24, 2016

I want to see the speaker, not the coaching

I recently attended an event with a long lineup of speakers. I'm like a kid in a candy store at events with lots of speakers!

As a speaking coach, I always learn something from watching others present, and of course, I analyze everything about their approach to see what I can pass along to my community. There's a lesson in every presentation, and this particular event had one overarching message that I must share.

About 80% of the speakers looked like they had been over-coached. There's a reason for this: They all worked with the same coach, and it showed.

What do I mean by over-coached?

1. They appeared "stagey," like they were acting, rather than using natural movements.

2. Almost every presentation had the same structure and trajectory.

3. Their vocal inflections lacked authenticity and sounded over-rehearsed, not how people speak in "real life."

When I see over-coaching, I see a lack of trust in the speakers' abilities to bring forth their own unique power of expression. I see an over-reliance on technique and an under-reliance on the speaker's ability to connect in a human, genuine way.

Now, please don't interpret what I'm saying to mean that this was a "bad" coach. Every coach has her or his own style, own beliefs and practices, and unique training and experience.

However, speaking is not "one-size-fits-all," and there is no one method that works for every speaker. When I see a whole bunch of speakers in a row who've been coached by the same person, it's easy to spot the use of a cookie-cutter approach.

Coaching requires an personalized process, not a formulaic one. There is no "system" that I can apply to every one of my clients that will give individualized results. Coaching has to be tailored to each person's needs based on individual strengths, individual personality and style, and desired result.

Coaching should help the speaker find the best of what's already within him or her. Coaching is not about covering up the speaker with techniques and mannerisms, it's about revealing what's inside, using what's already there and building on it, allowing it to blossom. As Michelangelo said, "Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it."

The 20% of the speakers at this event who did not appear over-coached either already had a lot of experience as speakers and already knew how to own the stage, or had strong personalities that managed to override the "formula" that had been applied to them. These are the speakers who stood out to me for their truth, honesty, power, and compelling stories and delivery.

Coaching is a powerful tool, and every day we see athletes, executives, politicians and speakers who've made excellent use of excellent coaches. You see the improvement, the growth, the maturity, the confidence, the higher level of performance. You see someone striving for excellence while staying in alignment with who they really are at their core. You see someone blossoming, revealing what's already inside in new and exciting ways.

What you don't see is the coaching behind the growth. And that's the way it should be.

August 15, 2016

Julia Child's advice to speakers

“This is my invariable advice to people: Learn how to cook – try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, be fearless, and above all have fun!” ~ Julia Child
Okay, so maybe she wasn't referring to speakers, but who can argue that her advice surpasses cooking and crosses over into many other areas?

As a speaker, if you're willing to try new things, learn from your mistakes, be fearless and have fun, well, you're ahead of the game already.

Happy birthday, Julia Child!

A couple of shots from my visit to Julia Child's kitchen at the Smithsonian! Lots of reflection because it's all behind glass.

August 10, 2016

Do your audience's filters override your message?

It's a story about a fig. It's a very simple story. This fig is HUGE.

I posted this picture on Facebook of the fig filling the palm of my hand. I thought the fig would speak for itself. But I was wrong.

I started getting comments like, "Can't get them here!" and "My mom loved figs, she had a fig tree." Someone said, "I used to love figs, still love fig Newtons cookies. My grandmother had a fig tree." And "Yum!!! Really miss that wonderful Cali produce!!!!"

And not one person mentioned the size of the fig.

Okay, if I had known this was going to turn out to be such an interesting experiment, I wouldn't have captioned the picture "Anyone want a fig?" I would have left it blank. But I didn't know it was going to be such a great experiment - and a perfect analogy for public speaking.

Here's the thing: Your audience is ALWAYS going to interpret your stories and your message through their own filters, their own background, and their own lifetime of knowledge and experience. When I see a meatloaf, I can't help but think about the meatloaves my mom used to make (with whole hard-boiled eggs inside!), and when someone sees a fig, they can't help but think of their relationship to figs.

If my message is clear - "Can you believe the size of this fig?" - then I'm more likely to get responses to the size of the fig. People will still filter the picture and the message through their own experiences, but they will also understand that my message is "Hey, this fig is huge!" And then their responses will be more like "I've never seen a fig that big," or "Is that closer to an apple or a peach in size?" Even those whose filters bring up grandma's fig tree might say, "My grandma had a fig tree, but I never saw one this big." The responses will now be in the same context as my message was intended.

But if my message is NOT clear, then they will come up with their own messages and stories about the fig, and those messages and stories will have nothing to do with what I intended.

This is what happens in your presentations when you're not crystal clear on your core message, your key points, how your examples and stories tie into your message, what's relevant to your audience, and what results you're hoping to achieve.

Your audience is already interpreting your message through their multiple filters. Being vague and scattered only makes it easier for them to get lost in their own heads rather than taking away the message you intend for them.

Now how about the size of that fig?
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